NFL Preseason Injuries
Football is officially back for another season and the excitement is at an all-time high, except for the preseason and what comes along with it. Every year fans, players, coaches, and analysts complain about the preseason being too long and unnecessary. Making matters worse, the amount of injuries that occur during the preseason are mind numbing. The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has even reduced the amount of hitting, practicing, contact, and training that players are allowed to do in hopes to reduce the injuries and make the transition back to football easier.
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Football Is Back
Football is officially back for another season and the excitement is at an all-time high, except for the preseason and what comes along with it.
Every year fans, players, coaches, and analysts complain about the preseason being too long and unnecessary. Making matters worse, the amount of injuries that occur during the preseason are mind numbing. The purpose of the preseason is to prepare teams, players, and coaches for the regular season and ease them back into football.
The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has even reduced the amount of hitting, practicing, contact, and training that players are allowed to do in hopes to reduce the injuries and make the transition back to football easier.
However, the new rules in the CBA may actually be doing the opposite of what NFL owners and executives set out for the new system to accomplish.
Image by Gabriel Cervantes
Through three weeks of the preseason we saw Pro-Bowl caliber players such as Jordy Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey, Kelvin Benjamin, Arian Foster, and Corey Wooton placed on injured reserve.
Not to mention roughly 15 other players placed on season ending, or the 10 week, injured reserve list. The number of players that end up on this list or even miss a few games at the start of the season is frustrating for all.
Not to mention that an injury to one of these players could spell disaster for a team, and maybe even push them out of their playoff aspirations. To avoid these problems some players do not even suit up for the preseason to prevent any unnecessary injury.
Numbers Add Up
We all know injuries happen, after all this is football where top athletes are running full speed into one another.
The problem is that too many injuries are occurring before the season even begins. This preseason has recorded around 250-300 injuries keeping players out of a game. The 2014 NFL regular season saw 1300 injuries preventing players from playing in a game.
This makes sense when you break down the numbers, each quarter of the season roughly 300 players will be injured. This means about 75 players will be injured each week of the season. Add in another quarter, the preseason, and we arrive at 1600 injuries in a year. The simple adage would be removing the preseason and there will be fewer injuries.
Ryan Working Out The Kinks
That seems to be the simple solution, but there is much more that goes into the preseason to remove it completely from the schedule. This is the time when coaches work out the kinks, tinker with their strategy, evaluate players, form their roster, and create competition at positions. The preseason is a crucial beast that all coaches need to evaluate their team and figure out what needs changing.
The preseason is also a big money maker for the league and teams.
Teams can still charge the same prices for tickets and fans will still pour into the stadium to watch their favorite team. Not to mention, it's a great time for concessions to make money, try new promotions, and incorporate new ideas.
They can market new packages for season ticket holders and host different events at their facility such as family nights, practices, scrimmages, or even concerts after a scrimmage or practice. This is the time for owners and the marketing office to make their adjustments for each new season and increase their revenue stream.
That being said, if the preseason were to be shortened it would have to be two games so that each team would have one home and one away game, making it fair for all teams.
This idea may not fly over well with some coaches as it will reduce their preparation time and evaluation period of players. Creating a 53 man roster from roughly 100 players is not an easy task to do in less than 6 weeks. Remove two of those weeks and it becomes an increasingly difficult challenge. On the marketing and franchise side it may also not be a good idea, as they would lose out on big marketing opportunities and revenue.
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii " Six NFL players on island for the upcoming Pro Bowl game attended a Wounded Warrior luncheon at the Nehelani, here, Jan. 24, to speak with Soldiers, pose for photographs and sign memorabilia. Charles Tillman (Chicago Bears cornerback, #33), Victor Cruz (New York Giants wide receiver, #80), Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks running back, #24), Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys tight end, #82), Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, #22) and Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, #11) took time away from their daily practices leading up to the big game to meet with Purple Heart recipients and combat-wounded Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion and the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. Standing with the players are Lt. Col. Stanley Garcia (left), commander, Warrior Transition Battalion, and Command Sgt. Maj. Joshua Amano (right), senior enlisted advisor, WTB.
Image by Stephanie Rush, Pacific Regional Medical Command Public Affairs, US Army
There is even some literature stating that the player’s off-season is too short and does not allow enough time for players to acclimate into football.
This is the reason for so many preseason injuries since the players do not have enough contact in the off-season. Well, that is just not true. If the NFL added more contact and training periods during the off-season it would only increase the chance for players to be injured.
These are finely tuned athletes and take care of their bodies daily, they're not lying around drinking soda and beer all off-season. Athletes come into preseason camps in solid physical shape ready to play, so they don't need much more than mental reps and timing to be prepared for the season.
What To Do?
The only way to reduce injuries in the NFL is to reduce the amount of contact, and I do not mean hitting another player.
By contact I am stating that players should have to limit the amount of training, practice, and games they play. We all understand that coaches need preseason training to evaluate players.
Reducing the veteran and starters preseason playing time would help reduce their injuries, but unfortunately the "roster cut" players may suffer more injuries. So what could be done to keep the preseason evaluation period, but reduce the amount of injuries to players?
Most veteran players already have their spot set and know the team’s scheme and plans.
These players should only have to play a set amount of time in one preseason game, while the younger and free agent players will battle it out for a roster spot in the rest of the games. That would reduce the injuries to franchise like players and still provide a strong evaluation period for the coaches.
It may not reduce the overall number of injuries, but at least the top notch athletes would have their chances of injury reduced and it would not ruin a team’s regular season expectations as much.
This process would also allow the league to market preseason games with more interest and appeal.
They could bring in other organizations to follow players on each team and show the process for guys on the bubble and televise their process. Thus creating a new reality TV series where player’s lives would be shown going through the roster-cut process.
Much like the show Hardknocks on HBO, but it would follow guys from all around the league. Fans would create an affinity to players and likely make them more interested in watching a team, and ultimately attending preseason games.
Go Behind The Scenes
Battling It Out
This is only one way the NFL could change the way that the preseason is run, but would be a great starting point.
Again the only way to reduce injuries is to reduce the amount of contact, and it does not seem that the NFL has any interest in cutting down the number of preseason games. So let's reduce the amount of playing the seasoned guys have to do, and let the "roster cut" players battle it out on TV series where fans would be engaged and interested in each team.
No Perfect Solution
There seems to be no perfect way to keep the preseason evaluation and training period, along with reducing injuries.
The numbers show that about 75 players are injured each week, so the only way to prevent injuries would be to remove games. Overall, the NFL has set a lot of new operations and rules in place to limit the amount of injuries.
With the game being played as fast as it is today there is likely no way to prevent injuries from happening, but the league can keep evolving to prevent the numbers from growing each year and keep top players from being injured in seemingly meaningless preseason games.